Almost 20 years ago Jonathan Jay Pollard was arrested. Almost everybody here has heard of Jonathan Pollard, maybe you know he was convicted of a crime and has been sitting in jail for the last 20 years.
Who is Jonathan Pollard? Born 1954 in Texas. Parents instilled a love of Israel. He became a Naval Intelligence Specialist in 1979 and got clearance to classified data in 1981.
Pollard, a Jew, always had a love for the Land of Israel. He got upset when he realized that there was a lot of info that America had regarding specific threats to Israel that they were not forwarding to the Israelis. Later Pollard remarked that Soviet military equipment was “quietly entering the Middle East unnoticed by the Israelis who were depending upon the U.S. intelligence community for warning of such activity.”
Also in 1981 Jay met Anne Henderson. In 1984 he was transferred to Anti-Terrorist Alert Center of the Naval Intelligence. Here was an assignment he heartily welcomed; to deal with potential terrorist threats.
In 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a bilateral intelligence-sharing agreement with Israel. The gist of the agreement was that America would share with Israel and vice-versa to exchange intelligence information pertaining to the security of each nation. Pollard was convinced that NIS officials were ignoring its directives.
He claimed that he saw a photograph of a poison gas factory being constructed in Iraq and requested permission to transmit it to Israel. Jay said his superior laughed and said Jews were too sensitive about gas because of their experiences in World War II.
All this led to Pollard’s decision to share info with Israel. He turned over thousands of documents that dealt with Israel and gave them over to Israeli Air Force Colonel Aviem Sella. He was put in contact with the colonel through a mutual friend. Before Sella agreed to talk with Pollard he got it cleared with the official Israelis through Yosef Yagur who worked at the Israeli consulate in New York for an intelligence gathering agency called LAKAM.
Pollard gave over classified documents for about one year w/o incident. From 1984 until he was caught in the spring of 1985 by U.S. officials. He was caught when one of his superiors, James Agee was looking for info to force Pollard to quit. Pollard had become a slacker at work and seemed not to care about his job and they wanted to force him to quit or be fired. Through this scrutiny Agee realized that Pollard was constantly taking home documents. This led him to suspect him and ultimately realize Pollard was a full-fledged spy. Early on November 9, 1985, a Saturday morning, Agee was examining everything he could find in Pollard’s desk and work area. He had been doing it for several hours when the realization hit him like a bolt of lightning: “I’ve got a spy here!”
When Jonathan realized they were on to him he got in touch with Sella. Now very nervous himself, Sella got in touch with Yagur. The latter gave him bad news. LAKAM had not made any escape plans for those involved in this operation. Sella was baffled. Yagur told him to just get himself out of the U.S. as soon as possible
In the meantime Yagur and others were having a conference concerning the fate of the Pollards. “We’ve got to save them,” Yagur said. His superiors didn’t think so. He told Yagur and the others that they should get their own hides out of the United States as soon as possible. The upshot of their meeting was that Jonathan Jay Pollard would be left as the fall guy.
Jay and Anne, of course, were not aware of this decision. Jay was convinced that the Israelis would rescue him. As soon as he could he jumped into his five-year-old green Mustang. The couple was driving to the Israeli embassy in Washington, D. C., believing that they would be given refuge there. When they got within sight of the light beige brick building, they saw its flag, made up of a crisp blue Star of David on a background of purest white, flying proud and high. That flag seemed to beckon them to safety and freedom. The gate of the embassy opened up for the car in front of the Mustang and Pollard zoomed in right behind it. They had made it!
But no! The Israeli consulate security guards conferred with their superiors and came relayed the distressing news. The Pollards were not welcome. The Israeli’s would not take responsibility for the spy ring!
Finally the anguished Pollard turned the car around and drove it out of the embassy but that was as far as the the couple got. Cars and vans carrying FBI agents surrounded the embassy. As soon as Jay got out of his car, he was arrested on charges of spying, handcuffed, and told his Miranda rights.
As we all know Israel is on very-friendly terms with the U.S. That in itself lessens the severity of the crime. Also Pollard claims and it was never proven otherwise, he never gave over any of the American agents’ names.
Now we go to the trial. Jonathan Pollard can’t be charged with treason because treason is a legal term reserved for spying for an enemy state usually during wartime. Jonathan Pollard was indicted on only one charge: one count of passing classified information to an ally, without intent to harm the United States.
Pollard’s attorneys cut a deal with the prosecution. Their client would plead guilty if the prosecutors would not ask for the maximum sentence – life in prison. The deal was accepted.
Pollard pled guilty. Jay Pollard sat in the courtroom, visibly trembling, as he made the plea.
The judge tried to impress the gravity of the situation upon the spy and make certain he knew that the deal carried no guarantee. “You realize I could still impose life imprisonment?” Robinson continued.
“Yes,” Jay said.
The sentencing took place nine months later. It was March 4, 1987. The day before sentencing then- Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger delivered a 46-page classified memorandum to the sentencing judge. We’ll get back to the document in a minute.
At the summation prior to sentencing, the prosecutor, despite the plea agreement made it clear that a heinous crime had been committed. He went so far as to compare it to Soviet spies that had been convicted that year.
The judge then passed the sentence; With respect to the defendant Jonathan Jay Pollard, who is being sentenced for violation of Title XVIII United States Code, Section 794c, I commit the defendant to the custody of the Attorney General or his authorized representative for his life.”
People gasped at the harsh sentence. Anne Henderson-Pollard let out screams of grief. “No! No! No!” she cried even as she collapsed in a heap on the floor. Two female bailiffs helped the distraught woman to her feet. She was sobbing as she stood on rubbery legs.
Many, perhaps most, observers were shocked that Jonathan Jay Pollard received a life sentence. After all, the government had not even asked for one. Following the plea agreement, they only requested a “substantial” term. At no point was Pollard formally charged with treason. No one else convicted of spying for an ally has gotten more than 14 years in prison.
Several reasons have been suggested for Judge Aubrey Robinson’s unexpectedly severe judgment. The most consistent complaint is in regards to the writings of Caspar Weinberger just prior to sentencing.
Weinberger was secretary of defense at the time of the Pollard sentencing. He wrote a 46-page memorandum about the harm caused by the defendant. He also wrote a letter delivered by courier to the judge just the day before sentencing. The memorandum was later released to the public with many sections blacked out for reasons of national security. The letter has never been made public.
Exactly why the memorandum was submitted is in dispute. Observers first assumed that it was written and given to the judge at the request of the prosecutor, Joseph DiGenova. Later, DiGenova claimed it had been written at the invitation of the judge himself.
Weinberger’s memorandum wrote of Pollard’s actions in the most damning terms. Among many other things, it said, “It is difficult for me . . . to conceive of a greater harm to national security than that caused by the defendant in view of the breadth, the critical importance to the United States and the high sensitivity of the information he sold to Israel . . . I respectfully submit that any U.S. citizen, and in particular a trusted government official, who sells U.S. secrets to any foreign nation should not be punished merely as a common criminal. Rather the punishment imposed should reflect the perfidy of the individual actions, the magnitude of the treason committed, and the needs of national security.” The word “any” is underlined in the original, reflecting Weinberger’s belief that Pollard should not be given leniency because he spied for a friend.
However, there is an important point overlooked by Weinberger, Hersh, and the many others who call Pollard a “traitor.” In the United States constitution, treason is defined as “levying war against them (the United States), or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Pollard never acted on behalf of an enemy of the United States.
The Jonathan Jay Pollard case remains a political hot potato. The question of anti-Semitism hovers over it. Is Pollard being treated more severely than another spy would because he is Jewish? Some well-informed observers believe so.
.” Time for Jonathan Jay Pollard has been among the hardest possible. He is in prison as someone commonly called a “traitor.” He is a Jew in a prison system in which there are few Jews and many anti-Semites. In an interview with Wolf Blitzer that took place while Pollard was awaiting trial and still in jail, Jay told the writer that he lived in constant fear since both the Aryan Brotherhood and Black Muslims – two groups usually at each others’ throats – have vowed to kill him.
Supporters of Jay Pollard believed he stood a good chance of securing his freedom when a lame-duck President Bill Clinton began looking into last minute pardons. Their hopes were dashed for, although Clinton pardoned more than 140 people during his last days as president, Pollard was not among them. The pardoned included Whitewater figure Susan McDougal, Clinton’s half-brother Roger Clinton, and, most famously, financier Marc Rich who had fled the country to avoid facing an array of charges including many counts of tax evasion and racketeering.
Many years have gone by since Jay Pollard was a free man. He is now housed at the federal penitentiary in Butner, North Carolina. His receding hairline has become a bald dome. The remaining black hairs have so mixed with white as to make his hair look a dull, dusty brown. He wears it in a longish fashion that, together with beard and mustache, gives him the look of an old-time hippie. Whether awake or asleep, he spends much of each day dreaming, as he has for so much of his life, of living in his dear Israel.
Court TV’s Crime Library, by Denise Noe
Territory of Lies, by Wolf Blitzer
Executive Summary of the Current Legal Proceedings, by CURTIS, MALLET-PREVOST, COLT & MOSLE LLP Attorneys for Jonathan Pollard